Can touch substitute vision?

An empirical study about how the visually impaired comprehend shapes.

Feeling-a-tactile-mapAssumptions about tactile information have guided the designs thus far. This prelimary study provides some insights into how people who are blind or have low vision interpret shapes, and which shapes work best.  Here is an extract from the conclusions:  

“The results suggest that visually impaired people identify simple geometric shapes accurately and fast, and that employ similar methods as the sighted people to identify shapes. … The most significant inference is that visual impaired people prefer textual information in relief rather than in recess. According to the interviews, more depths in tactile models help touch perception. This inference needs to be tested with a larger group of visually impaired people to generalize this information for practical applications. Similarly, circular shapes easier to comprehend over angular shapes needs to be tested with larger population of visually impaired people.  The results do not show significant performance difference between partially sighted and totally blind participants, except the former is a little faster in shape comprehension over the latter. This suggests that visual perception is not necessarily an essential requirement for shape comprehension and that shape can be understood through other senses like ‘the touch’.  … The study offers important information related to touch perception for visually impaired people that can influence fields like the education, product and architectural design, and leisure and tourism. The results will help design and detail tactile displays, graphics and public signage for easy comprehension and enhanced experience for the visually impaired people. The study offers the opportunity to redefine the learning process for visually impaired children through tactile pictures and drawings.

Download the article by Kavita Murugkar and Abir Mullick